The Secret to Unifying Omni-Channel Experiences

It’s no mystery that nowadays your customers are interacting with your brand in more varied and unpredictable ways than ever before. These interactions involve your customers transitioning between channels throughout a single purchase and throughout the entirety of their customer lifecycle. With so many channels and customer touchpoints, it has never been more critical to put the customer at the center of your multi-channel brand experience and empower them to act on their needs and desires regardless of channel. This requires a change from focusing on channel-centric transactional experiences (individual data and channel silos) to more holistic experiential views of the customer (channel agnostic data unification). 

Sure, we all understand the need for it, but why is it so important? 

1. Your customers expect it. Your customers do not draw lines between your channels as your organization does, they view your brand as one company. They expect consistency and a single, unified conversation with your brand. It’s no surprise that 87% of customers think brands need to put more effort into providing a consistent experience. 

2. The ROI of a unified omni-channel experience is proven. According to a Forrester report, 44% of in-store sales are predicted to have been influenced by the internet, making the unification of online and offline data critical. Furthermore, customers that shop on more than one channel have a 30% higher lifetime value than those who shop exclusively on one. That’s why Forrester also found that customers unifying their multi-channel experiences with SmarterHQ see a 667% ROI and 15% revenue lift on average.

So now that we understand the true value of unifying our omni-channel experiences, how do we go about doing so? The usability experts at the Neilson Norman Group have recognized 5 key elements to a successful omnichannel experience: consistency, context optimization, seamlessness, orchestration, and collaboration. But when it comes to unifying your customers’ omni-channel experiences, there are two key elements:

Consistency 

Companies that can provide consistent brand experiences will earn a user’s trust and brand loyalty. While we all know the importance of brand consistency from a visual standpoint, it’s important also to be consistent in your brand’s voice, its interaction patterns, and its user workflows regardless of channel. A customer expects a checkout process to look, feel, and, most importantly, function in a similar fashion regardless of whether they are purchasing via mobile app or desktop website. While some optimizations need to be accounted for based on channel limitations (also known as context optimization), the key is the familiarity of core processes should always be channel agnostic.

With those expectations of consistency, that also means that they expect the content and messaging to be consistent and relevant to them. If a customer registers for a newsletter, they should not be prompted to sign up for said newsletter again, regardless of which channels they subsequently interact with. Or, if a customer is a loyalty rewards member, they expect to see the correct reward status whether they are on their mobile app, checking their point balance with an in-store associate, or receiving a promotional rewards email.

Seamlessness 

Organizations must begin to realize that only providing the channels for a customer to interact with your brand is no longer enough. Rather than looking at individual interactions in these channels, focus on unique touchpoints that are interconnected as part of a larger experience in order to blur the lines between channels. It’s also important to note that users often don’t complete a task in a single channel. This could be due to interruptions, the task being better suited for another channel, or in some cases, the task requiring a channel transition. To provide a seamless experience, it’s important to understand when and why users might move across channels in order to complete tasks, and help design the experience around these movements. There are four primary areas to focus on while providing a seamless experience: 

1. Make it easy for your customers to continue where they left off. If a customer was browsing specific items on their laptop, they should be able to quickly continue browsing those same items on their mobile device. 

2. Provide detours when necessary. If a customer encounters a roadblock while attempting to complete their task, provide a solution to complete their task through a more appropriate channel. For example, if a specific item size is out of stock online but available in a store near them, provide a prompt directing them to the location with the item in stock. 

3. Be proactive. Recognize when a specific task will require a customer to continue on another channel and design the experience around them. With the current state of some retailers, it’s unfortunately all too common to see a brick and mortar store closing. However, a significant portion of lost revenue can be recovered by proactively converting those once in-store only customers to online shoppers with a channel migration campaign.

4. Unify all your data, including offline data. When a customer purchases online, makes a return in-store, or calls into your customer support, they do not care about any data silos that may exist. Often you will hear about unifying omni-channel experiences across web, mobile, display ad, and social media, but that’s only part of a customer’s relationship with your brand. By focusing on only purely digital channels, you are missing out on over half of a customer’s true experience. It’s critical to have a complete view of the customer, and that includes unifying any non-digital and offline data. To learn more about unifying offline and online data, check out SmarterHQ's Storefront

Now’s your chance! 

Providing a unified omni-channel experience can seem overwhelming, and it’s easy to fall for the mistake of focusing on individual channels. But it’s important to remember that a true unified experience is designed around your customers and their needs, not your channels. This requires a seamless, real-time view of your customer with the unification of all online and offline channels, not just online and digital data. With these tips in mind, and the right tools in hand, you’ll be on your way to transforming your customers from being one-time purchasers to becoming highly engaged brand ambassadors!

To learn more about how you can create a seamless customer experience with SmarterHQ, request a demo today.

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